I must have gone through Staithes when I walked the Cleveland Way as a teenager, but I was probably so footsore and weary by then that I have no recollection and it felt completely new to me when I revisited recently on the FancyaCuppa? tour of North Yorkshire.
It’s actually a delightful little fishing village tucked into the cliffs, rather like the more famous Robin Hoods Bay just down the coast but both of us found it far more charming and welcoming than its rather touristy neighbour.
Staithes is very much part of the Captain Cook trail and they don’t want you to forget that as you drive along the main road nearby. This was the village a skinny 16 year old Cook came to for his first job in a grocer’s store down by the harbour before he went to sea. The actual building was washed away in a storm some years ago – before they built the current harbour defences – but Captain Cook’s ‘Cottage’ stands now on the same spot…
It’s not far from there that we found the rather nice Sea Drift Café. A great place for a cuppa looking out over the harbour in Staithes, Sea Drift get their coffee from Bollings, the company that also makes Grumpy Mule, so it’s a decent brew, with a great aspect, and they do really wonderful cakes in here.
Speciality of the house is a creation called the Staithes Coble Cake. It’s an old family recipe consisting of apricot, walnut, apple and cinnamon; it’s delicious warmed and served with cream. A real treat on a cold morning.
Some bits of Staithes probably haven’t changed much since Cook’s early days here…
…but I’m sure the whole village is grateful they built such sturdy sea defences a few years ago. The waves were lapping up against one wall at low tide the day we walked along the coast here, so the village did well to survive those storm surges of recent weeks.
No such worries for our chosen tea room in Staithes. The Tea Shop is right back up at the top of the village (so ideal if your mobility is not so good and the steep walk down to the harbour is daunting).
It’s surely one of the simplest tea rooms we have visited in all the years of FancyaCuppa? review-writing. It’s basically a one-room chalet, with kitchen at the back looking out over what used to be the local railway viaduct. But it’s really cosy inside and extremely friendly. It’s also been around for a surprisingly long time: we were shown a wedding invitation dating from 1952, with the happy couple celebrating their big day with tea at this very tea room after the ceremony!
Owners Angela and Lou bake all the cakes on-site, using produce from an uncle’s garden when it’s in season. There was a great selection on the day we were there, with a steaming pot of Yorkshire Tea to wash them all down. A really nice experience overall.
There’s something wonderful about old villages like Staithes. There’s probably a few more holiday cottages than there were in Captain Cook’s day, and there’s a nice little community of artists living there now. But so much of it feels like it hasn’t changed for years.
There’s even an old World War One army camp up at the top of the cliff by the car park. Used for holiday chalets these days, mainly, though surely also a good potential film set for any period pieces, and when we were there last month, the whole site seemed to be up for sale. I do hope whoever buys it doesn’t change things too much round here…